For now, I think we will concentrate the here and now! Each night we hope to do a small, yet informative blog on our travels through Japan, with the hopes that it will encourage people to come and visit and give some insight into the things you can see and do while you're out here! We have a number of resources helping us along the way, and it'll be nice to share this info with all of you.
The easiest way to do this, I guess, is to address it geographically. We began our tour in Nagoya; starting at Nagoya Station. Here we claimed our Japan Rail Passes, which we had applied for prior to leaving the UK. You need to do this through an operator; we used JTB who were not only extremely helpful but incredibly informative (additionally we booked our Studio Ghibli Museum tickets via them, too, but I'll go into that process later). JTB also have a number of resources on their website you can use to scout out tourist spots and helpful tips for travelling in Japan.
If you head to their FAQ page, all your questions on what the JRPass involves can probably answered there, but for a quick explanation, basically it's a pass available to visitors from outside Japan that allows you to travel for a number of days around the entire country at an extremely discounted price. You can cheapen it further by limiting the destinations to East, West, Central etc or by cutting down the number of days which you would like to travel. Emi and I are travelling around at the moment on a 7-Day JRPass, it allows us to travel anywhere within Japan on the train and Shinkansen (bullet train) starting from the day which we activated it - so although we were in the country for 2 weeks prior to travelling, it didn't begin until we activated it at Nagoya station.
We would both highly recommend it, as it's an insane value for money. To put it into perspective - we paid 11,000 yen each for a single ticket between Tokyo and Nagoya, which works out at around £50 I think. That's 1/3 of the price of our pass done already, and we've only traveled one journey. Throughout the holiday we have planned seven journeys all across the country, it's definitely a worthwhile investment.
Train isn't the only way to see Japan, either, there's also the Experience Japan Fare by ANA which is a set-fare for foreign visitors to use air travel within the country. You can find more info on their Website, but we will also be blogging about this later on when we visit Yufuin! (Also, I'm not gonna lie, that site is super useful in general for finding cool places to eat and visit, will probs write about it later, too!)
Aside from all the travel malarkey, we have been gifted with an NTT Docomo portable wifi hotspot to update and share pictures, as well as help us get around here! You can pick these nifty gadgets up from a number of websites and at any airport in Japan. I'm pretty sure the way it works is by connecting to a 3G signal and working as a data-tethering thingy. I'm not hot on the technical details, I'm sure you can find out on their website (one of a few out there) - what I do know is that it works so well and I'm not sure how we would get around without it!
At the moment we're on the second night of our holiday, we visited Kinosakionsen yesterday, and traveled to Hiroshima today. I think it's safe to say we're seasoned Shinkansen veterans right now, and we're both pretty relieved that the bullet train is almost a pleasure to travel on - it's a million miles away from National Rail in the UK where you're lucky if you have a working toilet on your cross-country voyage. Just as well, since we have a lot more travelling to go!
Tomorrows blog update will include a full write up of our trip from Nagoya to Kinosakionsen, and our Shinkansen adventure from there to Hiroshima. Please look forward to it!!